Performance Max has arrived… what now?

It’s September 2022, and it’s time for something new in the world of Search Engine Advertising (SEA).

Picture of the autor Michelle de Zeeuw

Michelle de Zeeuw

Growth Marketing

As of this month, Google will officially be using its new campaign type: Performance Max. However, SEA specialists all over the world have not taken this new campaign type lightly for two main reasons. First, Performance Max is one of Google’s first all-in-one campaign types, where automation is fully relied upon. That raises the question: can we fully rely on Google’s algorithm to serve the right ads to the right audience? Second, as of now, our dear smart shopping and local campaigns will automatically be replaced by Performance Max campaigns. In this article, I will zoom in on what Performance Max is and the pros and cons of using this campaign type.

What is Performance Max?

Performance Max (also known as Pmax) campaigns are a combination of different existing campaign types in Google Ads: Local, Discovery, Display, Search and Video. It is essentially a goal-based campaign, where advertisers identify a campaign goal. In turn, Google will automatically optimize and serve ads to the best audience it finds, trying to fulfill this goal.  

Advertisers around the world (DotControl included) are quite suspicious around this new campaign type since it fully relies on Google’s algorithm and AI technology. Next to that, advertisers have minimal control. In other Google Ads campaign types, it is possible to tweak and optimize the ideal audience, keywords, ad copy, ad format and placements. With Pmax, it is only possible to input a goal and the ad copy, Google will do the rest for you. In fact, Google will serve ads in every single Google channel – YouTube, Search, Shopping, Display network and Discovery feed. Ads are suddenly eligible to be shown everywhere and anywhere, in all kinds of different formats!

At first you might say this is great, it makes everyone’s lives simpler. But there have been quite some instances in the past where Google’s algorithm didn’t match up with the business goal or didn’t even understand what the scope of the business was. For example, an organization selling dog food advertised on keywords such as “buy puppy food.” When looking at recommendations from the Google algorithm, it was suggested to add keywords such as “buy puppies.” However, this organization doesn’t sell puppies at all – selling puppies is not the same as selling puppy food. These types of cases have caused advertisers to question the algorithm. As such, the SEA specialist likes to keep control. Despite these cases, Pmax has now been launched, a campaign type that fully relies on this algorithm!

What happens now?

While much discussion has ensued about Pmax campaigns, it is still set to become an important campaign type in Google Ads. In fact, as of this month (September 2022), Google will have automatically converted all existing smart shopping and local campaigns to Performance Max campaigns. There is no choice in the matter. Smart shopping and local campaigns have been discontinued all together. For many advertisers this has quite an impact since they have been very reliant on the two, especially smart shopping for e-commerce organizations.

Because there is no say in the matter, we advertisers have been testing out with Performance Max campaigns in the past few months, trying to figure out what works well and how we can continue to make the most impact for our clients in Google Ads using this new campaign type. We have generated a list of pros and cons so far.

Pros and cons

It is quite clear; we are going to have to work with Performance Max campaigns. Instead of combatting this campaign type, we need to find out the most optimal way to work with it so that we can keep on generating positive results for our clients. While testing with Pmax campaigns, we discovered the following pros and cons.



High level of automation

You do not have to worry about bidding strategies, CPCs, which audiences to target, etc. This frees up time for other, more strategic work.

Without proper conversion tracking, you will not reap the benefits of Pmax.

Pmax is a goal-based campaign. Without goals, the algorithm will not have enough information to help make an impact.

Huge reach

Using Pmax, you can expand your advertising reach without needing to create 5 different campaign types – everything is consolidated into one Pmax campaign.

Still a very new campaign type

Google is still adding new features along the way and improving Pmax gradually. Best practices are still evolving.

URL expansion option

When creating an ad for a Pmax campaign, you are unable to add multiple landing pages. However, you can opt to use the URL expansion option. This will give Google the freedom to replace your final URL with a more relevant landing page on your website.

Little insights

We are used to having keyword, search term and placement reports. This information is very limited with Pmax. Sometimes it feels like a black box.

Audience signals

You can add audience signals to push Google in the right direction in finding the right audience to direct your ads at. It’s not the same as traditional audience targeting, but at least you can help Google with this signal.

No adding negative keywords

Search Engine Advertising is primarily based on keywords and sometimes you just do not want to be found on a specific keyword or search term. With Pmax, there is no possibility to exclude keywords for the specific campaign. You would need to exclude the keyword for the entire account.

Search ads will be minimally affected

Search campaigns are usually a very important part of your SEA strategy. You can continue to run your search campaign next to your Pmax campaign, without Pmax cannibalizing it. Be sure to use exact match keywords for your search campaigns.

Self-made videos are bad

If you do not upload a video, Google will create a video for you using the images you have uploaded. However, this video is a slideshow of the images with a bit of ad copy. The videos are terrible and mostly do not reflect how your business wants to be portrayed professionally.

Tends to work well for B2C/e-commerce parties

Pmax campaigns tend to perform well for B2C/e-commerce sectors because there is generally a lot of conversion volume to capture. Google gets lots of signals to quickly learn what works and what doesn’t.

Tends to work less effectively for B2B parties

A Pmax campaign focused on leads (B2B) is more difficult to run in terms of profitability. There are usually relatively few data points the algorithm can learn from. Tip: focus on tracking conversions that reflect the end goal of the sales cycle.

We, and many other advertisers, have been testing with Pmax campaigns. Sometimes it generates amazing results and sometimes it doesn’t. We should keep in mind that Pmax is still very new. Even Google is continually releasing new features. However, the time has come to embrace this new campaign type. After all, you won’t be able to use your smart shopping and/or local campaigns anymore after this month.

Need help?

We can understand that this topic is very complex and specific. It’s new to all advertisers around the world which means we are all learning step-by-step. Do you want to test with Pmax campaigns or brainstorm how to get the most out of your Google Ads account? We are happy to help!